Largest Navies In The World 2021

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While the vast majority of human civilization is land-based, we cannot escape the fact that the Earth is 71% water. With such an overwhelming abundance of seas, rivers and lakes, it’s no surprise that civilizations have been feuding over sea passages and strategic water-based territory since before the Bronze Age. In an attempt to more convincingly preside over these territories, some nations have strived to improve their naval technology and rule the seas. Today, the world boasts some truly magnificent fleets.

Before comparing modern fleets, it would be productive to revisit history in order to properly calibrate what constitutes an impressive navy. The largest naval fleet of all time belonged to the United States during World War II. At its peak, the US navy consisted of 6,768 vessels. In all likelihood, this record will never be broken as fleets have been gradually shrinking and consolidating since.

At present, North Korea’s navy, the Korean People’s Army Naval Force (KPANF) is the world’s largest by total active assets. The isolated East Asian nation possesses a total of 967 vessels, including 438 patrol boats, 86 submarines, 25 mine-warfare vessels, 10 frigates and more. Although North Korea’s total naval assets exceed second placed China by over 200, the KPANF is not nearly as powerful as it’s ranking would suggest.

In the 21st century, the primary focus of the North Korean military has been ballistic, long-ranged missiles. The navy has received limited funding and resources during this time. In 2020, the entire North Korean military had a budget of approximately $3.6 billion. While still a very large figure, KPANF spending is not in the same ballpark as some of the other contenders. As a result, most of North Korea’s navy consists of largely outdated Soviet or Chinese-built vessels. Additionally, the KPANF is considered a “brown-water” navy, meaning it is most effective in rivers, lakes, and coastlines, and would fare far less well on the open sea. Although North Korea’s navy is technically the largest in the world, it would be quite naive to say that their navy is the strongest.

The world’s largest navies by total active naval assets:

North Korea (967) China (714) United States (415) Iran (398) Russia (352) Egypt (319) India (295) Finland (270) Colombia (234) Indonesia (221)

The aforementioned Chinese navy ranks second in total naval assets. The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) presides over 714 vessels including 220 patrol boats, 73 submarines, 29 mine-warfare vessels, 50 frigates and more. Although China has fewer total assets, their ships are more modern and constantly improving. The PLAN also employs around 240,000 personnel up from North Korea’s 60,000 personnel.

The United States has the largest navy by personnel, with over 400,000 actively enlisted. The United States also holds a distant third place by fleet size, consisting of 415 total assets. The United States spends more on their navy than any other country in the world, with an annual budget of $161.04, which is about 45 times as much as North Korea spends on their entire military. In reality, however, the United States has a very strong case for the world’s strongest navy.

One deficiency of evaluating naval strength based strictly on asset count is that it doesn’t weigh the different kinds of ships properly against one another. For example, the United States has 11 active aircraft carriers, more than any other country by a wide margin. The average aircraft carrier is around 1,100 feet long (comparable to 3 football fields in size), weighs 90,000 tons and costs around $13 billion to produce. At capacity, one of these behemoths can carry up to 90 small aircraft at once. On the flip side, patrol boats (which comprise the majority of the KPANF) are often just 100 feet long and cost just $25-50 million for state-of-the-art models. However, on a list that considers assets above all else, these ships have the same value: one asset.

Given this glaring shortcoming, perhaps there is a better way to evaluate naval size. One way that may more closely align with presumed naval strength would be to do so by tonnage, the total combined weight of a navy’s fleet. When considering tonnage, an aircraft carrier (90,000 tons) is worth approximately 1,250 patrol boats (72 tons). By tonnage, the United States dwarfs the rest of the world, possessing a fleet tonnage of approximately 3,415,893 tons. This figure is greater than the combined sum of the next thirteen heaviest navies. North Korea doesn’t crack the top ten in terms of tonnage, but China and Russia retain high-ranking spots.

The world’s largest navies by tonnage:

Largest Navies In The World 2021

Rank Country 2021 Population
China1,444,216,107
India1,393,409,038
United States332,915,073
Indonesia276,361,783
Pakistan225,199,937
Brazil213,993,437
Nigeria211,400,708
Bangladesh166,303,498
Russia145,912,025
Mexico130,262,216
Japan126,050,804
Ethiopia117,876,227
Philippines111,046,913
Egypt104,258,327
Vietnam98,168,833
Dr Congo92,377,993
Turkey85,042,738
Iran85,028,759
Germany83,900,473
Thailand69,950,850
United Kingdom68,207,116
France65,426,179
Tanzania61,498,437
Italy60,367,477
South Africa60,041,994
Kenya54,985,698
Myanmar54,806,012
South Korea51,305,186
Colombia51,265,844
Uganda47,123,531
Spain46,745,216
Argentina45,605,826
Sudan44,909,353
Algeria44,616,624
Ukraine43,466,819
Iraq41,179,350
Afghanistan39,835,428
Canada38,067,903
Poland37,797,005
Morocco37,344,795
Saudi Arabia35,340,683
Uzbekistan33,935,763
Angola33,933,610
Peru33,359,418
Malaysia32,776,194
Mozambique32,163,047
Ghana31,732,129
Yemen30,490,640
Nepal29,674,920
Venezuela28,704,954
Madagascar28,427,328
Cameroon27,224,265
Ivory Coast27,053,629
North Korea25,887,041
Australia25,788,215
Niger25,130,817
Taiwan23,855,010
Sri Lanka21,497,310
Burkina Faso21,497,096
Mali20,855,735
Malawi19,647,684
Chile19,212,361
Romania19,127,774
Kazakhstan18,994,962
Zambia18,920,651
Syria18,275,702
Guatemala18,249,860
Ecuador17,888,475
Senegal17,196,301
Netherlands17,173,099
Cambodia16,946,438
Chad16,914,985
Somalia16,359,504
Zimbabwe15,092,171
Guinea13,497,244
Rwanda13,276,513
Benin12,451,040
Burundi12,255,433
Tunisia11,935,766
Bolivia11,832,940
Belgium11,632,326
Haiti11,541,685
South Sudan11,381,378
Cuba11,317,505
Dominican Republic10,953,703
Czech Republic10,724,555
Greece10,370,744
Jordan10,269,021
Azerbaijan10,223,342
Portugal10,167,925
Sweden10,160,169
Honduras10,062,991
United Arab Emirates9,991,089
Tajikistan9,749,627
Hungary9,634,164
Belarus9,442,862
Papua New Guinea9,119,010
Austria9,043,070
Israel8,789,774
Switzerland8,715,494
Serbia8,697,550
Togo8,478,250
Sierra Leone8,141,343
Hong Kong7,552,810
Laos7,379,358
Paraguay7,219,638
Libya6,958,532
Bulgaria6,896,663
Lebanon6,769,146
Nicaragua6,702,385
Kyrgyzstan6,628,356
El Salvador6,518,499
Turkmenistan6,117,924
Singapore5,896,686
Denmark5,813,298
Republic Of The Congo5,657,013
Finland5,548,360
Norway5,465,630
Slovakia5,460,721
Oman5,223,375
Palestine5,222,748
Liberia5,180,203
Costa Rica5,139,052
Ireland4,982,907
Central African Republic4,919,981
New Zealand4,860,643
Mauritania4,775,119
Panama4,381,579
Kuwait4,328,550
Croatia4,081,651
Moldova4,024,019
Georgia3,979,765
Eritrea3,601,467
Uruguay3,485,151
Mongolia3,329,289
Bosnia And Herzegovina3,263,466
Jamaica2,973,463
Armenia2,968,127
Qatar2,930,528
Albania2,872,933
Puerto Rico2,828,255
Lithuania2,689,862
Namibia2,587,344
Gambia2,486,945
Botswana2,397,241
Gabon2,278,825
Lesotho2,159,079
North Macedonia2,082,658
Slovenia2,078,724
Guinea Bissau2,015,494
Latvia1,866,942
Bahrain1,748,296
Equatorial Guinea1,449,896
Trinidad And Tobago1,403,375
Timor Leste1,343,873
Estonia1,325,185
Mauritius1,273,433
Cyprus1,215,584
Eswatini1,172,362
Djibouti1,002,187
Fiji902,906
Reunion901,686
Comoros888,451
Guyana790,326
Bhutan779,898
Solomon Islands703,996
Macau658,394
Luxembourg634,814
Montenegro628,053
Western Sahara611,875
Suriname591,800
Cape Verde561,898
Maldives543,617
Malta442,784
Brunei441,532
Belize404,914
Guadeloupe400,020
Bahamas396,913
Martinique374,745
Iceland343,353
Vanuatu314,464
French Guiana306,448
New Caledonia288,218
Barbados287,711
French Polynesia282,530
Mayotte279,515
Sao Tome And Principe223,368
Samoa200,149
Saint Lucia184,400
Guam170,179
Curacao164,798
Kiribati121,392
Micronesia116,254
Grenada113,021
Saint Vincent And The Grenadines111,263
Aruba107,204
Tonga106,760
United States Virgin Islands104,226
Seychelles98,908
Antigua And Barbuda98,731
Isle Of Man85,410
Andorra77,355
Dominica72,167
Cayman Islands66,497
Bermuda62,090
Marshall Islands59,610
Northern Mariana Islands57,917
Greenland56,877
American Samoa55,100
Saint Kitts And Nevis53,544
Faroe Islands49,049
Sint Maarten43,412
Monaco39,511
Saint Martin39,234
Turks And Caicos Islands39,231
Liechtenstein38,250
San Marino34,017
Gibraltar33,698
British Virgin Islands30,421
Palau18,169
Cook Islands17,565
Anguilla15,117
Tuvalu11,931
Wallis And Futuna11,094
Nauru10,876
Saint Barthelemy9,907
Saint Pierre And Miquelon5,766
Montserrat4,977
Falkland Islands3,533
Niue1,619
Tokelau1,373
Vatican City800

Largest Navies In The World 2021